Reconciliation and Complications
Diego felt something rubbing his cheek in rhythmic
cadence. Top to bottom, top
to bottom, gentle, but at the same time firm.
Finally the rubbing changed and became a soft touch; almost what he
could imagine an angel’s kiss to be.
He opened his eyes and blinked, trying to focus on the real-life
angel hovering above him, her lips pulling away from him and into his line
“Querido, how are you feeling?” Minta
asked. As his eyes focused,
he noticed that she had a razor in her hand.
It had been her shaving him that he had felt.
“And do not even think to check to see if you still have skin!”
she teased. “You do.
I did a good job if I say so myself.”
Her humor was infectious and he smiled.
“What a sight to wake up to,” he murmured, gazing into her
“Diego!” she giggled.
Suddenly, Minta felt the years rolling away and she was back on
board the ship to Earth, during the time of their Union. She reached down and brushed an unruly lock of hair off of
“I feel strange,” he said, puzzled, his brow
furrowed in concentration.
smile faded and concern took its place.
“Like something is missing,” he continued.
“Well, you are missing a small part of your
liver, you also had a hole in your diaphragm, a couple of broken ribs and
you lost a generous amount of your blood supply, but you are fortunate;
there are expert surgeons on board this ship,” she replied, not totally
teasing this time.
“I should be dead,” he stated simply.
“Maybe, but I think your santos were
looking after you,” Minta responded.
“Diego, I believe that there is something working here that is
higher than either one of us. This
is more than coincidence.”
Nodding, he returned to his original problem.
Something was missing, but he felt so tired that he couldn’t
think straight. Diego blinked
to keep his eyes in focus. “Pain,”
he finally said.
“Are you in pain?” Minta asked anxiously.
She turned to activate the communicator.
“No, that’s just it.
There is none. Not
really. Just sore…and
“Oh,” she breathed in relief, turning back to
him. “I am so glad; you had
me worried for a moment. As
to being tired, it has not been much more than eighteen hours since your
surgery ended, so it’s natural to feel that way.
The pain medication will do that, too.
You have been sedated heavily in that time as well.”
Minta’s hand strayed through the thatch of hair
on his chest, gently massaging.
Diego took her hand in his, raising it to his lips.
He remembered one of his very first acts after he woke up on Rantir
was taking her hand and kissing it. He
remembered the times he would kiss her fingertips, teasing her about how
much more he had to kiss, since she had five fingers on each hand.
Now he began with her index finger and lightly kissed each one, but
after the fourth finger there were no more.
Gazing at her hand, he counted and saw that she had the same number
of fingers as he did. He
stared at her hand and then into her eyes. “What happened?” he asked in a whisper, reaching for her
other hand and finding the same thing.
His mind felt a kind of horror creeping into it.
“When the twins asked to come here to meet you,
I thought of what I could do to make it easier to stay with you, mi
amor. I knew that a great
deal of what set me apart as a ‘demon’ was my hands, so I had them
surgically altered. My feet,
too,” she explained. “The
twins were born with four fingers on each hand.
That was not a problem for them.”
She saw the look on his face and went on quickly, “Diego, I have
wanted more than anything else to be with you again.
To be united to you forever. That’s
all I have ever dreamed about. I
would go through your Hell to be with you.
And I did what I felt I needed to do to fulfill that dream.”
Her voice rose in agitation as she saw a variety of emotions
crossing his face.
“Minta…” he began, but stopped, unable to
put into words what he was feeling. That
she would do this for me, he thought.
This sacrifice…oh, Dios, what have I done to deserve this kind
of devotion? I almost let her
die and she does this so she can come back to me… Feeling
his emotions rising up inside, building, almost choking him with their
intensity, Diego took her hands again.
He felt the tiny scars that barely showed where the fifth finger
had been. Kissing them, he
then brought her hands to his cheek and felt the sudden flowing of tears
as the culmination of the years of guilt and torment, longing and loss
released themselves from deep inside where he had locked so much of it
away. He cried for Minta, for
himself and for Conchita.
“Diego,” Minta cried softly, her own tears flowing. She pulled away the side frame of the bed and slid in beside him, cradling him as close to her as she could without hurting him, murmuring expressions of love as he cried softly against her chest. Finally she felt him relax and she drew back, gently letting his head rest back on the pillow, seeing his eyes closed in sleep. For a few minutes she watched the rise and fall of his chest, then she took a cloth and gently wiped his face. Minta smiled as she saw the same kind of peace that she had seen on board the star cruiser so many years ago. “Padre Felipe was right. I cannot leave you again,” she murmured as she bent over and kissed him tenderly.
Former Sergeant Demetrio Lopez Garcia sang lustily
as he drove the wagon filled with wine kegs and bottles to the pueblo.
The morning was almost gone and it was hot, but a breeze was still
available to temper the heat. If he timed it just right, he might be able to wheedle a mug
of wine from the innkeeper before he went back home.
The stubble on his cheeks was more gray then
reddish brown and most of the straggly hair that sat like a disarrayed
bird’s nest on his head was also heavily flecked with silver.
The jowls sagged more and the steps were slower, but he was still
happy. When he got it, his
pension was enough to take care of his simple needs.
When he didn’t, the de la Vegas were quick to let him do the
occasional odd jobs for them that compensated for the little house he
lived in on the rancho. The
de la Vegas are my friends, he thought, they always had been.
This job, for instance, of taking the wine to the pueblo
for sale and distribution.
And the cook, ah, the cook, what a woman, he
thought. She was almost
always willing to give him extra breakfast, and lunch and supper. Then she would wave her spoon menacingly at his stomach and
mutter, “…un hervido muy grande.
Ai, a kettle of prodigious size!”
But she always laughed as he tried to tell her what a good match he
would make for her.
Now as he drove the wagon, sang and thought about
how good his life was, he saw a man riding a limping and sweat covered bay
horse. The horse looked to be
half dead. With a flick of
the wrist, Garcia coaxed his team into a trot, which was more than
sufficient to catch up and pass the beleaguered horse.
“Señor, your horse needs to rest,” the former sergeant
“No, no, I need to get away from the mountains
and to the pueblo as soon as I can,” the man said.
“You will not do it by killing your horse,”
Garcia pointed out. The man
allowed his exhausted horse to stop and Garcia pulled back on the reins to
halt the team. “Why do you
need to get away from the mountains?
There are no hostile Indians anymore.”
He rubbed his chin thoughtfully.
“In fact I do not believe that there are any Indians living up in
there at all.”
“It is the rustlers.”
You mean the bandits that have been stealing the cattle; the ones
that killed the vaquero?” Garcia asked.
Thoughts of reward came into his mind.
“Sí, if they saw me now, they would kill
me,” the man said.
Garcia noticed that the man was almost as gray as the ground, coated in a layer of fine dust. He had no hat, but he was wearing a bandage around his head. His nose and cheeks seemed blistered as though from too much sun. Probably from having no hat, Garcia reasoned. “What happened to you?” he asked, pointing to the bandage.
The man stammered and coughed before speaking.
“I was caught by them and they hit me over the head.
I was out cold for hours.”
“Sí, that would explain the sunburn you
have as well,” Garcia replied. “But
señor, you sound dry. Would
you like a bit of wine? You
can ride with me and tell me all about your adventure.
It sounds very exciting. I
am heading for the pueblo.”
The man nodded, climbed up into the wagon, leaving
the horse standing by the side of the road.
As he settled onto the seat, he sighed.
Garcia pulled a bottle of wine from a crate and, using his knife,
peeled off the wax seal. He
then pulled the cork out and handed it to his companion.
“What is your name, señor?”
“Uh, Juan,” the man said.
“I was riding in the eastern mountains yesterday morning and came
across the rustler’s camp. One
of them caught me and they beat me before knocking me out.”
Juan took a long drink and handed the bottle to Garcia.
As he drank, Garcia looked closely at him,
wondering where they beat him. With
a shrug, Garcia decided that he would take Juan’s word for it; the man
did look rather scruffy, even if he had no bruises.
He handed the bottle back. Juan
took another long drink and continued, this time not returning the bottle
to his host.
“I woke up a little later to find no cattle;
they must have stampeded. Some
of the rustlers were dead, but not all and I have to get away in case they
come after me.”
“What are you planning on doing?” Garcia
“Go to Mexico.”
Garcia did a bit of quick figuring in his head.
“Well, if you were in the eastern mountains and it has been
almost a day since you said you woke up and escaped from the rustlers, why
are you only this side of Los Angeles? It is not that far to the mountains from here.
And why is your horse so worn?”
“I said I was hit on the head. I was scared and got lost.
I went in the wrong direction,” Juan said testily.
“How are you planning on getting to Mexico?
You do not have a horse and it appears that you do not have money,
“I have a plan.”
“What is it?” Garcia asked, curious.
“If I tell you, do you promise not to try and
get the money yourself?” Juan asked, leaning toward the fat man
conspiratorially. “In fact
if you get me to the cuartel, I will even give you a little of
“But, of course, I’ll help you. In fact, I personally know the sergeant of the guard.
What is this plan?”
“I know for a fact that Zorro was wounded by the
“It is true, señor.
I saw Zorro lying on the ground, injured. He got up once. Someone
helped him, but when the cattle stampeded he fell down again behind a
rock. He did not try to get
up after that,” the small man said, noisily sucking on the wine bottle.
Finishing it, he wiped his dusty sleeve across his mouth and
Garcia was startled.
To think that after all these years the fox would be felled by a
rustler’s bullet seemed almost impossible.
“But I thought that you said that when you woke up, the cattle
“I woke up for just a little when the explosion
made the cattle stampede. Then
I passed out again,” Juan explained.
“But when you woke up again, did you not look
for Zorro?” Garcia asked, a bit confused.
“When I woke up again, I did not know if there
were other bandits still around or not. I just found a horse and got away
as fast as I could,” Juan explained.
do you suppose that Zorro was badly injured?”
“I do not know.
All I know was that he didn’t get very far when the cattle
stampeded,” Juan replied.
“Well, I suppose that the reward covers a dead
body as much as it covers a live one,” Garcia murmured.
Somehow, the idea of getting some of the reward money didn’t
appeal to him any more. “And
where did you say this valley was located?”
“East of here,” Juan said evasively.
He watched as they passed the first of the pueblo’s
buildings. His eyes glittered
in anticipation as Garcia pulled up in front of the cuartel gate.
“I will leave you here.
When you collect the three thousand pesos, you can buy a
purebred Andalusian stallion. I
really do not need the money,” Garcia said, his voice registering his
“Gracias, señor,” Juan said as he
jumped down and almost ran to the comandante’s office.
The orderly at the door perused him and frowned.
“What do you want?” he asked.
“I need to see the comandante.
About a reward,” Juan said.
“Reward for what?” the orderly asked.
“For Zorro!” Juan snapped before thinking.
“And pigs fly during the Feast of St. Michael,
too,” the soldier laughed.
“Tell your comandante that I can tell you
where Zorro is.”
With a shrug the orderly went inside the room and
spoke to the sergeant of the guard. When
Juan was admitted into the office he gave the soldier a smirking glance. “I
know where you can find Zorro,” Juan said, coming directly to the point,
telling his story.
Sergeant Lugo sat behind the desk, gazing at the
nondescript, filthy, ragged man. He
listened to the man’s story for approximately three minutes.
“Where did you say this place was?” he asked.
“Almost due east of here, in the foothills of
Lugo stood up, his eye flashing. “Señor, I do not know what kind of joke you are
trying to play on me, but if you do not get out of my office in two
minutes, I will have you publicly whipped.”
“But, Comandante, we must go find
Zorro,” Juan cried out desperately.
“My lancers were out there this morning and
found three rustlers, tied up.
The others were dead-- shot or trampled.
And no sign of Zorro! That
Zorro was there, I have no doubt; that he was hurt, may or may not be, but
he is not there now. Get out
of here before I throw you into the carcel!” Lugo shouted.
It had been a very hot, dusty morning.
Juan got out, just as fast as his legs could carry
him. To his horror, though,
as he was dashing toward the gate, several of the prisoners began
Soon Juan/Fernan found himself in jail next to his disgruntled fellow rustlers. Their cries for revenge making him shiver. Ai, why did I not just keep riding for Mexico? he lamented to himself, thinking that his journey toward the south had been well on its way when he got greedy and decided to come back and get the reward money for capturing Zorro.
As the erstwhile rich man was lamenting his lot in
a jail cell, Garcia was sadly delivering the wine to Señor Urbina,
the innkeeper. As the workers
were unloading the barrels and kegs, he related to them the distressing
tale of Zorro’s misfortune. Several
workers laughed at him, but most listened, as saddened as he was that they
might have lost their beloved hero.
When he returned to the de la Vega rancho, Garcia again related the tale. Soon the hacienda was abuzz with the news, but there were four for whom the story meant so very much more.